American lawmakers aims to decriminalize cannabis. Photo Credit: Shepherd Express/Getty Images.
Times are changing and so are laws towards cannabis. On Monday, November 15th, Republican lawmakers introduced a bill to federally decriminalize and tax cannabis.
Republican Rep. Nancy Mace, along with other Republican cosponsors, introduced the bill — the States Reform Act — in the U.S House of Representatives, reports Reuters.
States Reform Act
According to a press release from the Congresswoman, this act would decriminalize cannabis at a federal level. More specifically, the act aims to reschedule the plant, and leave regulations up to individual states.
In the statement, Rep. Mace explains that all but three U.S. states allow some form of legal cannabis — whether it’s medical or recreational.
“This is why I’m introducing the States Reform Act,” she stated; “a bill which seeks to remove cannabis from Schedule I in a manner consistent with the rights of states to determine what level of cannabis reform each state already has, or not.”
“This bill supports veterans, law enforcement, farmers, businesses, those with serious illnesses, and it is good for criminal justice reform. Furthermore, a super-majority of Americans support an end to cannabis prohibition, which is why only 3 states in the country have no cannabis reform at all,” Rep. Mace wrote.
Similar Cannabis Bills
Rep. Mace’s bill would enforce a 3% tax on cannabis products. Officials would then use this as revenue for businesses, farmers and law enforcement. The States Reform Act presents a tax rate that is notably lower than similar bills that lawmakers introduced this year. For example, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act would impose an 8% rate, while the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) is at a 25% rate.
Additionally, The States Reform Act would incorporate certain equity by supplying expungements for people with non-violent cannabis convictions. For instance, individuals that are affiliated with cartels or driving under the influence will not be eligible under this act, reports JDSUPRA.
According to Mace’s office, there are estimates that about 2,600 people will be released from federal incarceration under the provision.
As Reuters reports, Rep. Mace’s proposal would give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limited control over medical cannabis. Instead, the Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau will regulate interstate commerce. As a result, it will be treated much like alcohol.
Prior to The States Reform Act, democrats introduced the MORE Act, to remove cannabis from the list of controlled substances. According to the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the MORE act also had motives to move forward towards criminal justice reform, economic development and social justice. For instance, it would create a tax revenue fund, and an Office of Cannabis Justice to implement social equity measures.
On the other hand, there is the CAOA. This bill, which democrats proposed in July of this year, aims to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). It also allows states to determine their own cannabis laws, according to Senate Democrats.
Support for new Bill
At a press conference Rep. Mace disclosed how The States Reform Act is a compromise between other legislations that lawmakers have presented in the past.
Rep. Mace said, “my main goal is to get as much Republican support as I can, initially, and we’re hearing great feedback from both chambers, both sides of the aisle on this piece of legislation.”
Having both sides of the chamber work together towards a goal is great; but there is doubt that previously Democratic-led legalization bills (such as the CAOA) will pass without a GOP buy-in.
In order to move forward, House representatives must vote to approve the bill, sending it to the Senate where others (including the MORE Act) are currently awaiting a floor vote.
Despite uncertainty about both parties agreeing on new regulation, a Gallup poll shows 68% of the public supports federally legalizing cannabis.
Regardless of such bipartisan support, President Joe Biden opposes federal cannabis legalization for adult-use. In lieu, according to Marijuana Moment, he’s supportive of the federal decriminalization, letting states set their own policies, and the legalization of the plant for medicinal purposes.
In order to achieve that goal, a congressional report explains steps he and his administration are going to take toward cannabis decriminalization.
Rep. Mace is not the only lawmaker moving forward with cannabis policy.
On Monday, November 15th, President Biden signed an infrastructure bill that includes provisions allowing researchers to study cannabis. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allows researchers to use cannabis from state-legal dispensaries versus government-grown cannabis.
According to Marijauna Moment, the legislation not only focuses on research; it also encourages states with legal cannabis to further educate people about impaired driving.
As Yahoo further reports, the infrastructure measure makes the Transportation Secretary, Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human services work together to create a public report over the next two years. This allows access for scientists to study retail-level cannabis and impaired driving.
Under the provisions of providing a report it must contain a recommendation on establishing a national clearing house. As Filter Magazine reports, “The [Department of Transportation] will also recommend how to establish “a national clearinghouse to collect and distribute samples and strains of marijuana for scientific research.” This resource would be available to researchers even in states where marijuana is still illegal.”
The newest advancement to cannabis policy contributes new and vigorous policy discussion on Capital Hill while paving ways for adult-use cannabis and legal state medical products.
But, future reform legislation still awaits.
Now, Americans and lawmakers must await a House vote on The States Reform Act, and also expect a revision of the “MORE Act” sometime in 2022, Marijuana Moment reports.
The good news is, however, that there are both Republican and Democrat-led efforts in Congress to decriminalize cannabis.